Recently, a large portion of the country hoped that elected Republicans in the Congress would step up and join in the condemnation of the 45th President as the primary instigator of the violent events in Washington, D. C. on January 6th. We hoped that among that august crowd, enough heroes and heroines would finally surface to end the madness. While we applauded and honored the ten Republican Representative of the House who did just that, we were rather hoping there would be more. But we should have known better.
We should have known better because to be a hero, you have to face your fears. So, it might logically flow that those Republicans elected to Congress who did not stand up have not yet faced their fears. It also follows that if they had faced them, they would have already been leading their constituents out of the dark morass that Trumpism has brought to their party. They would have been leaders. But they are not.
They are like the old political joke about an elected official who follows his constituents around from behind while telling them that he is their leader. Not only is he ineffectual, but he is also a joke. And he will be run over when that crowd of constituents turns on him, as they undoubtedly will whenever they are disappointed or feel that they have been betrayed. And they will turn…eventually.
So, if this is true, wouldn’t it be best to be in front? Could it possibly be that leading from the front might actually be a way to control the movements of often precarious constituencies? In fact, consider what leading from the front, telling the hard truth, and suggesting a constructive remedy for what is wrong could produce? What good fruit might be borne of such heroic acts?
What might true leadership have meant that day as the rabble incited by Trump made their way to the Capitol? What might real leadership have done to quell the mob that had been being filled with the outgoing loser’s lies? Could such leaders have stood with the Capitol Police, “John Wayne- like” in their ramrod convictions, and told the rabble they had been hoodwinked? Could they have looked their constituents in the eye and told them that the election was free and fair and that they had lost? Could they have told them they should take that loss with a modicum of grace, fixing their gaze on the next election like so many generations of losers in elections had done before them? But they could not and they did not because they had not ever been leaders.
They could not because leading from behind makes you vulnerable to the many feet that can trample you. They could not because they have been, for the most part, cowards who have been afraid of the very people they were supposed to represent and to lead when those people had gone astray. They could not because the fear of being primaried by the loser in the Oval Office and his minions paralyzed them. They could not because they think of their offices in government as long careers to which they are entitled rather than a brief period in their lives when they have the honor of being the voice of their neighbors in a government meant for all.
And they could not because they have forgotten the time-tested adage that states that a coward dies a thousand times, but a hero dies but once. So, their cowardice aided and abetted the riot that came to them and came for them. Their cowardice that day put their political and personal dilemmas in pristine focus as they chose to cower in safe rooms and refused to wear masks instead of lining up on the front lines to fight the riot and lead with the truth.